originally published in the Focus Section “Technique” – Bourgeon Vol. 2 #3
Technique is not ideology. Technique is options. Any technique simply gives you options. Technique allows you to make choices.
A poet could say that the English language is the language of oppression, the language of Columbus, Nixon, Bush, Rumsfeld and whatever that guys name is on Fox News. But you could equally say that English is the language of Audre Lorde, Nina Simone, and Bell Hooks.
I understand that there are aspects of our culture that one wishes to run away from. That one wishes were not a part of history, and of the present. But our only choice is the present. And in the present, the English Language, the Ballet Language, the Language of Classical Music – these things can be oppressive, but are not necessarily so. I understand the desire to run away. To start something, or work with something, that does not have baggage. At the same time, if performing is a gift, is for the audience – might it not be a terrible thing to express to them in a language they already are familiar with? Especially if expressing new ideas?
Technique gives you choices. Perhaps if one chooses ballet technique, one is then burdened to dance in a way that counters the past. But perhaps all technique gives you choices for today, and every individual, and every audience has a different relationship to any technique. We probably don’t read Shakespeare – as individuals or as an audience the way they did two hundred years ago. Does that matter?
Ballet is inherently connected to nothing but the individual who practices it.
Rob Bettmann is a freelance dancer and writer based in Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Day Eight – the host organization for this journal. Examples of his non-dance writing can be seen at www.dayeight.org. He continues to train in ballet with Roudolf Kharatian.
As a ballet teacher I tell my students, ballet is not a style, it’s a technique. It teaches a particular torso placement, it teaches straight knees, turn out, pointed feet, etc. If you want to learn something about isolation, go to a jazz class.
While there is a classical style often associated with the ballet technique in todays world choreography is simply whatever the choreographer sets. If it’s in pointe shoes it is likely to be labeled ballet regardless of what else is going on, simply because it is in ballet schools that pointe technique is taught.
Classes are about technique – choregoraphy is about creating art. Two different things.